From Jack on Patreon:
“Why did the US go on to develop the M1 Garand instead of continuing development of the BAR? With the BAR you already have a self-loading rifle with as much firepower as later battle rifles of the Cold War (such as the M-14), including detachable 20 round magazines. Why not just try to make a lighter weight, possibly semi-auto only BAR instead of starting over from scratch?”
There was one proposal to do something pretty much like that in 1919, but it was rejected by the Infantry-Cavalry Board for a couple reasons:
– The BAR was not really capable of manual operation in case of malfunction
– The BAR was too heavy
– The BAR was not clip-fed
We can see more by looking at the 1921 RFP for a new US Army semiautomatic rifle. Among the requirements were a strict weight limit of 9.5 pounds and a requirement for a clip feed holding between 5 and 10 rounds. The US military saw box magazines as undesirable for a service rifle, as they held the rifle too high up off the ground, among other reasons. In addition, they rightly saw that it would not be practically possible to reduce the weight of the BAR by 40% and retain the proven, reliable characteristics of the design. While it’s not explicitly stated anywhere, it seems like the idea was that if Browning thought he could produce a shoulder rifle version of the BAR, it should be proposed as a new design alongside the Garand and Hatcher/Bang systems then in development.
What the Infantry-Cavalry board should have answered:
“you know what pain in the ass is to strip field the BAR even for basic manteinance? Do you really expect ordinary grunts to service it?”
Also I would add the price of a BAR. That is some big chun of steel to be machined in one piece for the receiver and it is a complicated shape, making it very expensive. Then all the fiddly small bits inside and the weight to carry it. REally, there were actually lots of reasond to replace it and the BAR was only a quick stop-gap for late WW1 really. It held on because of inertia in the US procurement system, but was certainly not a particularly good gun in WW2 really.
Polish BAR, price from 1930/31 – 2430 zloty
Polish-produced Mauser rifle (wz.29) – 250 zloty
The question that the Infantry-Cavalry Board should first answered is: How did we really fight WWI? Where was combat pointed, there at the end of it?
If they had, we’d have then asked the right questions, like “How much cartridge do we really need, for an individual weapon?” and “What should an individual weapon be doing in the first place?”, followed by “How do we best operate under fire?”
None of these questions were asked, and because of that, we got the whole “full-power semi-auto rifle” as the solution, ignoring the fact that full-power cartridges were too damn much to be firing, couldn’t be fired on full-auto, and that while they might have a place in supporting weapons, they’re really a lot more than what should be issued to the individual soldier.
Wrong questions got asked, wrong lessons were “learned”. When I read the documentation from that era, what I perceive is a lot of self-referential wishful thinking, and very little actual rational analysis. Everybody seemed to think that every soldier could be Alvin York, if only they were trained properly and given the right rifle. That was the fundamental fantasy, and the one that screwed everything up for decades. Nobody ever did a real statistical analysis or any actual operational research about how the fighting had been conducted, and what the weapons were actually being used for.
Arguably, the weapon that should have gone on issue after the lessons of WWI? The SKS. Right alongside something like the BREN in an intermediate caliber as a fireteam/squad support weapon, and a belt-fed version of the BAR (MAG58, anyone…?) as a squad/platoon fire support weapon in a full-size caliber.
That’s the way things were actually being done, down at the pointy end of things. Trouble was, nobody was observing or listening.
Several people and bureau had the right idea, and tried to make an SKS in the ’20s. See the Terni M1921 in 7.35X32 (that competed with four similar projects), or the Swiss Furrer 1921 in 7.65X35 (The Ribeyrolle 1918, being a pure blowback, was a little too heavy). The .276 Pedersen was no really intermediate, but was a step in the right direction.
For one reason or another, the advocates of full blown cartridges always won.
Whatever their motivations were, their main “weapon” had been economical. Millions of full blown cartridges were already there.
Only one question was asked after WW1, and it’s the same one they asked after WW2, Korea, Vietnam, and right down to the present day.
It is “How do we win every trophy at Camp Perry?”
U.S. Army rifle design has always been focused on what’s needed when a specialized marksman is bellied down on the gravel on the 800-yard range there. (Or is it 800 meters now?)
Once the breechloading rifle replaced the smoothbore and then rifled muzzle-loader in the 1870s, Army Ordnance (less a bureau than a lot of offices flying in something like a gaggle) became obsessed with “marksmanship tradition”. Another way of saying that is “showing up the Marines and those amateurs from the National Rifle Association”.
Every 5.56 x 45mm or similar project came from somewhere outside the Ordnance fortress, most often Continental Army Command, the Infantry School, or somewhere outside the Army entirely. (The original AR-15 came courtesy of the Air Force, rather the way the Spencer entered the Army inventory via the Navy a century earlier.)
The M14 is a perfect example of Ordnance’s idea of the perfect infantry rifle. Because it can win trophies at Perry.
The recent mania for “reclaiming the infantry half-kilometer” is simply another iteration of “we need to win the 800 trophy at Perry”. That far out is a job for a properly-mounted and used support MG- or better yet artillery.
In the future, I expect that the infantry rifle will be designed to win matches without actual human intervention. Because the Army will be concentrating on important things like pronouns.
What it will be notably lacking in is…actual properly-trained and equipped soldiers.
It will however, have thousands of generals with billboards of ribbons on their left breasts larger than Idi Amin’s.
I echo your cynicism. The inmates have mounted a coup and taken over the asylum.
Kirk, And it wasn’t just the US Army – look at what the various nations took to war in 1939
Oh, undoubtedly. Only the Germans seemed to “get it”, and emphasized the MG uber alles, which I think was an entirely reasonable conclusion to have reached.
Some other firearm was passed up because they thought the average soldier would waste ammo if it was quicker to shoot. Im sure this suffered the same reason
The mention of being to fall back to use a new self-loader as a bolt action rifle is one of the common things in new technologies: “Can we also keeping it like the old technology?”
Self-loading rifles were still generally unreliable at the time requirements were written down, so having a fallback option of using the new rifle as a straight pull bolt-action rifle is not that dumb a requirement. Even todays modern military assault rifles you could use a straight-pull still. Some better than others. The M16 would be a bit awkward of course being designed around only rarely using the little charging handle at the rear, but for example a Kalashnikov or a G36 or FN FNC or SCAR can easily be actuated manually. As experience so far has shown us self-loading rifles have become reliable enough that it is nearly never needed, but that was not so clear one hundred years ago.
I think you’d be surprised about the efficiency of that “little charging handle at the rear”. I know I was, when I observed a West Point cadet we had temporarily assigned to us manage to somehow qualify 36/40 with what amounted to a single-shot M16A1. I wanted to pull him off the range and diagnose what was wrong with the rifle, but he was doing well enough doing immediate action between each shot that he actually managed to shoot low Expert with the thing.
Turned out, someone had installed the gas tube upside-down while the weapon was in maintenance. Which was something that took me an embarrassing amount of time to diagnose, because I never thought to look for that as an issue. Once I pulled the handguard off of it, and I was looking things over, I was like “Oh…”
The M16 is a marvelously ergonomic weapon, once you get used to the conventions of it all.
Were US soldiers never taught how to strip and maintain their own weapons? I would have thought something like that would be noticed very quickly by someone even a little familiar with the rifle. If your rifle wasn’t working correctly on the range due to being improperly reassembled you would get dragged over the coals for it.
Of course they were. BUT we’re talking about a huge (something like 6 million troops), conscript army – training was hurried and reduced to the minimum in order to get troops to the field.
Other issue is, the gas tube is not an operator-level bit of maintenance; even the unit armorers weren’t supposed to be munging about with those. The fact that that rifle had just come back from maintenance, and was one of the ones I hadn’t yet gotten around to pulling quarterly maintenance on meant that the fact some idjit had put the gas tube in upside down wasn’t instantly apparent. Hell, even when I went to take the weapon apart for diagnosis, that was about the last thing I expected to find, being as the only person in the unit with the tools to do what was necessary was myself. It didn’t even dawn on me as I checked for and noted a certain amount of hang-up where the carrier key and gas tube interfaced. I initially thought it was a bent gas tube or clogged carrier key, but… Nope.
I had words with the maintenance warrant over at Third Shop, after that. Half the shop was newly assigned, so things like that leaked out.
It was one of those things that you just didn’t expect to find, like someone putting their left shoe on their right foot. You glance at it, subconsciously recognize something is wrong, and then pass right on by that wrong-footedness.
So to pose a question, do you feel that the BAR should have been superceded by the Johnson LMG? Was it a better weapon? Less robust but certainly more advanced and versatile. More a SAW question than a rifle question.
I feel like the Johnson, the BAR, and the BREN were all answers to questions that nobody should have been asking, in the first place.
I am a believer in firepower at the squad level; I do not believe in the fantasy of the individual rifleman somehow overcoming everything in his path through excelling at marksmanship. Brutal honesty forces me to acknowledge that you’re much more likely to win when you’re plastering places where you’ve spotted enemy activity with as much fire as you can, particularly past the actual range where the individual weapon is effective. That means, I am afraid, that you’d best be firing a lot of bullets at anything you see, basically on speculation that if you see one, there are at least a couple more around that one dumbass who showed himself.
There’s limited elegance to modern combat. Not that there ever was, back in the days when we were lining up guys with percussion or flintlock muskets, but there’s even less today. Today’s battlefield is full of ephemeral small arms targets; you want to win, you hit them hard, and you hit them heavy. One guy with a rifle shooting one guy who foolishly revealed himself? That doesn’t win; a guy with a machinegun laying a enough of a burst to produce a beaten zone the size of a squad, which hits that one dummy who got spotted, along with his five friends?
That’s how you win engagements. It ain’t pretty, it ain’t elegant, and it’s raw butchery that often takes out more than you really want to. But… That’s what wins.
As that is the case, I’m not a fan of any of the magazine-fed Automatic Rifle-role halfway-house wannabe LMG solutions. The M249 SAW? Philosophically, if I had to carry an LMG, and that was all there was? I’d be good with that. What I really want, though? MG34/42 or one of its modern interpretations like the PKM, the SS-77, or the Negev in 7.62 NATO. The magazine-fed BS needs to stay in the arms room and the history books.
That’s my opinion, and your mileage may vary. The people who’re advocating for the M27 Automatic Rifle BS may have a point, but I think they’re going to get their asses handed to them when we tackle anyone who has even half a clue and some logistics backing.
The Johnson, the BAR, and the BREN were all really crappy ideas that should have been left on the drawing tables after WWI. Sadly, they were not, and I suspect that the casualty rolls would be far shorter, had we grasped the realities of things and gone for something like the German solution to mid-20th Century combat.
That’s just the way it is.
My school’s ROTC detachment had bunch of M918A2’s my freshman year (1970-71) because some Reserve and Guard units still had them and I had the doubtful pleasure of hauling one, plus blank ammunition across the Pennsylvania hills on more than one occasion. Man, that sucker was heavy! Sometimes I got a break from BAR duty and was given the cursed by God and man M1919A6 “light” machine gun instead. And more d#*$-d small parts to clean and lose when you cleaned it after the FTX. It might have been a great gun in 1918, but 1970 was long after its “best if used by date”
28th Inf Div?
No, Penn State Army ROTC (1970-74) – although we were known to operate with elements of the Bloody Bucket, particularly as the “Aggressor Force” and they supported us with things like truck transport.
One of my explanations for the popularity of the M60 among the Vietnam-era guys is that you have to look at what they’d had before the M60. If all I’d ever had was the BAR and the M1919A6, I’d have probably developed a much more positive set of feelings for the M60 than I did.
No one wants to hump a 17 lb rifle. This coming from a guy that humped a 27.6 lb M-240B.
The 28th was reorganized as a ROAD (ROW-ADD) Mechanized Infantry Division in the early Sixties and was one of three selected reserve divisions, with additional funding, more training assemblies per year and priority on modern equipment, so I think they had replaced their WW2 small arms. The Commonwealth fielded the 104th Armored Cavalry, which had M48’s and M113’s as its ARNG unit in the eastern part of the state, with the 28th Infantry Division as its ARNG unit in the central and western portions. Western Pennsylvania was also home to one of the Reserve’s few combat units, the 157th Separate Infantry Brigade
The BAR, like the Chauchat was intended to be operated by a 3 man team; gunner, loader and scout (ammo bearer, who also supplied flank and rear security). It was also intended to be operated primarily in semiauto mode. Was around 1925 that they made the BAR the squad base of fire and did away with the 3 man team.
The rifle the Army probably really wanted would have been the German Gew 43 aka K43. Lighter than the Garand and with a 10-round magazine, detachable but normally loaded down through the action with two five-round Gew98 clips in a manner very like the M1903 or for that matter the SMLE.
Its one defect from the Ordnance Board’s standpoint would have been its lack of a bayonet. There was still a lot of obsession with “cold steel” there at the time.
Yes there was an obesession coming from hardheaded traditionalism which holds on today in many armies still, but cavalry attacks were not totally done with as WW2 showed a few times. The last cavalry attack is said to be the breakout of Kossacks in Hungary in ’45 and there were a few other cavalry attacks during the war including the infamous attack of polish cavalry against tanks. So requiring a bayonet was not totally unreasonable in my humble opinion, because there still were quite a few cavalry units around.
WW1 showed that the bayonet was still useful in trench warfare. But if you pigeonholed the average Poilu, Tommy or Doughboy, they’d admit that the bayonet saw more use in trench raids in the hand than it did on the business end of the rifle.
In open country, mobile warfare in WW2, the lessons of the American Civil War were reasserted. Those being that infantry firepower forced the enemy to go to ground and engage in a firefight before getting anywhere close to bayonet range.
Most rifles and carbines today, especially the “bullpup” types, are too short for the bayonets they have (usually with blades under 16cm) to be much use on the muzzle for anything but weapon retention in MOBUA.
And there the bayonet does have some practical value. Some would-be hero of Islam or etc. who thinks he can grab the barrel of the infidel’s weapon as he comes through a doorway, and wrest it away, finds that there is a huge difference between grabbing a gun barrel and grabbing half-a-foot of razor-sharp knife blade.
And of course, the bayonet still has its traditional function. Namely, opening MREs.
I don’t think we can really ever say that some form of warfare is ever really obsolete. At best, the form and expression change, while the function and the implementation remain.
Modern battlefields do not have a place for large horse formations wheeling and charging. However, the traditional role of screening and harassment that cavalry used to perform is today being done by guys running around on ATVs deploying AT missiles and drone reconnaissance tools…
I think it would behoove us to re-examine our disdain for “outmoded” forms of warfare, and think carefully about what lay beneath those forms. I’d be very interested in a modern ATV-mounted cavalry force running around in my rear areas with communications, missiles, and drone assets. Actually, in the right hands? I’d be shit-scared of them, because they’d have the capacity to put the old irregular horse formations we used to use to shame. Imagine Jeb Stuart or Jordan-Rozwadowski with a few thousand ATVs at their disposal…
The only thing that goes obsolete are the minds of the leadership. Everything else still applies, if only in spirit.
Swear to God, if you ever wind up being force to be an Observer/Controller while some half-ass schlub takes a brigade of the world’s fastest tanks down the Central Corridor of the National Training Center at a literal snail’s pace…? You’ll understand why I say that the mind of the commander is more important than the weapon or even the doctrine, sometimes.
Really! Is it easier and quicker to load 2 five round stripper clips than 1 8-round enbloc clip? In addition, the Garand had the superior sights
The K43 can be loaded with 5-round stripper clips, a 10-round stripper clip, or individual rounds, like the SMLE.
The Garand can be loaded with…the 8-round en bloc clip, and that’s it. No “topping off” allowed and if you don’t have the clips, you’re SOL.
Exactly why that feature of the Garand didn’t get changed during RDT&E has always been a mystery to me. Unless Ord’s theory was to avoid a detachable box magazine at all cost. What might look like a great idea to limit “ammunition wastage” on a test range doesn’t look so good in actual combat, whether in the Belgian Bulge or on Peleliu. They have done stupider things.
Really, 8 round enbloc clip vs. 2 5-round stripper clips and aperature sights vs. a V and post. I’d rather have a Garand.
Or a Rifle No. 4 with the ten-round box loaded with stripper clips, and a nice aperture rear sight that’s much easier to adjust than that Rube Goldberg setup on the Garand, which afflicted us with the M14 as well and even carried over the Ruger Mini-14, mainly to maintain the Garand “look”.
As for “power”, the 0.303in’s only problem was being rimmed. Power-wise, it was good enough to reach out and kill a man at 500 meters, which is probably about 200 meters more than was really necessary.
The .30-06 is a great cartridge…for a support machine gun. Or for big-game hunting.
The utility of any infantry rifle cartridge much more emphatic (at either end) than the 7 x 57mm Mauser of 1892 is questionable at best.
“infamous attack of polish cavalry against tanks” Sorry, but that’s a myth “Only hours after the German invasion, two squadrons of horsemen from the Polish 18th Lancer Regiment caught a German infantry unit in the open near the town of Krojanty. Having the advantage over the unaware and lightly armed infantry, and tasked with delaying the German armored thrust, the Poles swiftly attacked.
Sabers were drawn and the order to charge was given. The 250 Polish horsemen broke up the enemy unit, inflicting 11 dead and 9 wounded on the stunned men of the German 76th Infantry regiment. The Germans panicked, broke ranks and ran for it.
But as the Poles consolidated their position, several German armored cars appeared, opening fire with machine guns and 20 millimeter cannons. The Lancers were caught in the open, just as they had caught the German infantry in the open. In the ensuing melee, about two dozen Polish troops were killed and the rest scattered. Despite the losses, the Lancers had done their job. They had delayed the German advance by several hours and sent panic through their lines — a feat that Polish cavalry would accomplish many other times during the September Campaign through charges against infantry.
It was in the immediate aftermath of the skirmish at Krojanty that the myth of the “charge against tanks” was born. After the Lancers scattered, the Germans retook the area in force, bringing tanks in as reinforcement. At that point, several war correspondents, including Italian journalist Indro Montanelli and the future author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer, were escorted onto the battlefield. They were told that the corpses they saw were the result of an attack with horses and lances against the tanks they saw, and breathlessly repeated the story in their papers, playing up the bravery — and foolishness — of the Poles.”
Well said. All too many people buy into the German propaganda on this.
Oh it was like this? I never held it against the polish or saw them as dumb (if maybe desperate), because you use what you have. Interesting it comes from propaganda originally.
Thanks for clearing that up for me. I learned something today. 🙂
I wouldn’t feel bad about it… I myself used to think the same thing, and even made the mistake of repeating it to a Pole of my acquaintance sometime in the late 1980s. Did. Not. Go. Well.
Let’s just leave it at “I got schooled”, and leave the embarrassment of telling someone whose father and uncle were casualties of that action and period that they were feckless fools who charged into tanks with spears and swords out of it.
I think it was about then that I really began to become suspicious of nearly everything I read in regards to “history” and “news”. You can find scads of “eye-witness reports” from that action, written by news correspondents who likely never got out of the major hotels in Warsaw before the Germans bombed the place flat. None of those reports are really accurate, and they tend to leave out the fact that the Poles who charged with cavalry actually caught a German unit flat-footed and really did a number on them before the armor showed up. Polish cavalry was perhaps an outmoded branch, at that point, but when well-handled, they were still capable of influencing the battle.
Also, do not speak positively of British Airborne leadership to a Pole whose father survived the battle for Poland, escaped to France and then the UK, then got killed at Arnhem. You might be in for a bit of a lecture about British perfidy, sloth, and poor leadership…
Yes, I took it for granted and yeah, it was the story passed on and copied and I never bothered to really research on it. Unsurprisingly the German propaganda spun it their way of course to make the Poles look dumb.
But there was a cavalry attack, which was my main point. And all through WW2 there were cavalry attacks. Also at the same time in China between the various warlords and Japan. The Soviet army also had cavalry deployed. It became less important to fend horses off, but not totally improbabale. Hence the smaller bayonets and shorter rifles reflecting the importance of fending off cavalry. (of course other factors played into this like making the rifles more handy)
Oddly enough, the original WWI-era BAR was used by the British Home Guard as a huge, beefy self-loading rifle to augment the mostly ex-US rifle, caliber .30 Model of 1917 “American Enfields” used by the former “LDV” “Look, duck, and vanish” volunteers.
The bottom-mounted magazine was not as rapidly replenished as the top-mounted box magazine on the Bren gun. Firing full-auto was thought to be less efficient–and certainly more wasteful of ammunition–than controlled semi-auto fire. So bolt-action rifles and a big self-loading rifle, capable of bursts in a pinch, and some form of “machine carbine” for officers or senior NCOS was the basic “section” firepower.
Browning did make a snazzy little self-loading pistol-caliber carbine for the .30 Pedersen/ U.S. pistol caliber .30 Model of 1918/ Pedersen device cartridge. The French tested it, and while they clearly were enamoured with the BAR–hence the Chatellerault FM 1924/29 squad automatic rifle, they did decide that the 7.65mm long cartridge was “good enough” for a pistol and SMG, and then convinced themselves of its merits until after WWII when 9x19mm was adopted.
The BAR was an original Assault Rifle designed to assault machine gun positions in WWI. Marines used to modify Springfield rifles to take a BAR magazine for additional firepower. There is nothing wrong with a “full power” round if you take the time to train people on how to shoot them adequately. Yes, a 6MM Lee round might have been adequate, but this harping on intermediate rounds ignores what happens when you get in long-range duels in areas like Afghanistan. You cannot always depend on a .308 Machine Gun or artillery to engage some a-hole with a .303. The Army is now going with a 6.8 round to address the range issue. A 6.8 0r 7MM round is better than a 7.62 X 39 round for beyond 400 meters. Intermediate rounds are good for assaults and Urban Combat. Rounds with more “power” are better.
I’ve never seen a Springfield w/ a BAR magazine. C&Rsenal have done a couple of videos on the Springfield Air Service Rifle w/ a 25 rounder, but that was a fixed mag. You have any links?
See Canfield’s US INFANTRY WEAPONS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR pages 73 to 75 “Twenty-Five Round Extension Magazine” for ground troops (He has a separate section on the Air Service Rifle). It was not the BAR magazine, but the same as the Air Service item and was designed to be installed instead of the normal floor plate. To quote – “it is all but certain that the item was intended for general use as well…the number produced was greatly in excess of the amount required for the periscope and air service rifles, which certainly suggests the intent was for wide-spread general use. Also, the extension magazine, attached to an unaltered standard M1903 rifle was pictured in a WW1 Ordnance Department manual. This certainly lends credence to the assumption that the intention was to issue the extension magazine for use with standard ’03’s” When I get the chance, I will scan and post the illustration from his book.
This question reminds me of a conversation I had with a group of 4th Infantry Division vets at the 50th D-Day Anniversary ceremony at Fort Dix in 1994 (I was invited as a guest of one of the veterans-my girlfriend at that time pulled his name out of the index in Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day and tracked him down). The group I was with were all members of the same company and landed on Utah Beach. During a visit to the museum, where many of the infantry weapons were on display, a debate on the merits of each weapon was held amongst the vets for my benefit.
The M1 Garand was considered a good rifle, the carbine not so much. The Thompson and Grease gun lacked range, but were good for laying down suppressive fire. And the BAR! These guys said they collected BARs. They never sent a wounded man’s BAR back, and would request a replacement. By the time they were fighting in the Huertgen Forrest, there were entire squads carrying the BAR, and they loved the firepower they could put out during an attack. They said the extra weight was worth it. I thought that was wild, and I never forgot that discussion in the Fort Dix base museum.
Post-war studies found that the riflemen tended to gather around the BAR, and the fire action almost always started from the BAR. The BAR was the weapon that dictated the time of th action.
What’s weird is that, IE for the Brits, that was taken for granted. Their infantry tactic revolved around the BREN (not to talk about the Germans, whose infantrymen were servents and ammo bearers for the MG). For the Americans, that came almost as a surprise.
I always have seen the German and British tactics as pretty similar in the end. The British Army even went as far as giving each and every infantryman two big pouches for BREN magazines. Making the squad the ammunition bearers for the BREN machine gun. Differenc3e to the Germans being, that the BREN is magazine-fed not belt-fed and for the heavy role they still used the Vickers gun. Also the Germans used a lot of ZB.26 and 30 guns and kept manufacturing them and employed them pretty much like their universal MGs. IMHO both ended up with pretty similar concepts analyzing WW1 and seeing the importance of small indepently acting elements of squad and platoon size and give them the most firepower they could.
The number of things that have come as a “surprise” to the American military establishment is nearly infinite in length.
Had they possessed the wit and wisdom to actually go out and research what was going on in real combat, they might not have been as “surprised”, but that whole thing revolves around the fact that the US Army, along with much of the rest of the US military structure, revolves around the idea that there is a small professional force that serves as leavening for the “levee en masse” Great Unwashed that they take in and train to fight wars with. As such, the career military types in WWI and WWII did not emphasize getting their hands dirty down on the line, ‘cos that was strictly the job of the “Christmas Help” conscript and Reserve/NG types.
This is why Renee Studler was clueless, and thought he was the guy to tell everyone else how “things were done”. Smarmy bastard never did day one on the line in combat, and his false conceptions warped US small arms procurement for decades. Like the rest of the Ordnance “union”, he knew nothing of the realities of war.
If you had paid attention, the sort of thing you’d have done after examining WWI combat would have led you right along the same path that the Germans took: Firepower, above all. That means accurate volume fires delivered from a highly portable and easily role-converted weapon that could serve as an automatic rifle on up to what was then considered a “heavy” sustained-fire MG. The individual weapon? Hell, they could have issued mostly STEN guns to the squads, a couple of DRM bolt-actions for the occasions where you needed them, and as long as they had a solidly capable MG that could be effectively maneuvered? They’d have been a lot better off than they were with the oh-so-sexy semiauto Garand in everyone’s mitts.
If you were to look at what the “Christmas Help” was actually doing in WWII combat, you’d have noticed that they were not following any of the manuals; they grabbed as many machineguns as they could, belt-fed, mag-fed, whatever, and they used volume of fire to enable their maneuver and get their effects, much as the Germans had been doing since 1939. I’ve seen pictures of WWII mech infantry squads and talked to the guys that manned those halftracks; they often had more machineguns than men on those vehicles, and blew the literal dogf*ck out of everything they suspected of harboring the enemy. “Recon by fire” is a WWII infantryism that still resonates to this day.
And, what did the Studlers of the US Army do, after the war? After patting the guys who’d actually done most of the fighting on their backs, they went right back to the same highly flawed well of stupidity, and doubled-down on the individual rifleman. Which promptly blew up in their faces, in Vietnam.
The NGSW concept proves to me that they still don’t have the first felching clue about what is going on in combat. If they did, they’d have tossed that sad idiocy of a single cartridge to do everything right out of the window, and stuck with the existing stuff. I seriously doubt you’re ever going to see any issues with body armor actually affecting much besides our own casualty figures, because if they’ve got body armor, all you need to do is engage them with a support weapon. Everything else can be served just fine with the existing 5.56mm solutions, because even if they are wearing armor, a hit to a chest plate with 5.56mm isn’t exactly something you can just shrug off; it’s still going to put you down for long enough that someone can get another round into you past those plates, or they can engage with the support weapons. The NGSW thing is predicated on the idea that a couple of plates make the enemy tantamount to a Terminator robot, and that’s just not the case. I don’t know of anyone we didn’t wind up doing a MEDEVAC on who’d been hit in their body armor, and the vast majority were hors de combat for a goodly amount of time, afterwards.
The whole NGSW thing is more about spending more money for no good reason. The stated issues they say that they were addressing? Ain’t a one of them actually effectively addressed by a new caliber and a new series of rifles; the raw fact is, they’re going to be fired off the same shoulders as the older shit, and that’s where the problems lie: You cannot get effective fire out past 800m off someone’s shoulder and a bipod. Maybe if we recruited exclusively from the Carlos Hathcock demographic, whatever that is, but… Not off of average Joe or Jane.